I still remember the exact moment when I began to hate working for Extra Foods. It was back in the fall of 2000, and I was still just a bag boy. It had been a really busy day, so busy that I worked straight through my break. My relief called in sick, so I was asked to stay an extra hour, and I did. It was literally 5 minutes to go before the end of my shift. A bag boy for the evening was finally found, and things had finally died down. With so little time left in my shift, I leaned up against one of the tills and “took a moment,” as one of my heroes on TV would say. At this point, the visiting regional manager came around the corner. He saw me leaning against the till, and stormed up to me. “We don’t pay people to stand around doing nothing,” he barked. “Get back to work or I’ll find you work!” Given the day I had just had, I didn’t take too kindly to his accusation that I was being lazy. So, I stood up straight, glared him in the eye, and, in a very loud voice, informed him of the day that I had just had, and as this was the closest I could take to a break, I was going to take it. After a moment of stunned silence, he just glared back and said, “I don’t like seeing people standing around. You should have taken your break. And I don’t like being spoken to that way.” I wanted to continue tearing a strip off of him, but I also wanted to keep my job. So, I gritted my teeth, and simply said, “Yes, sir.” That was when I started to hate my company.
Now that I’m a supervisor, I’ve found all sorts of way to get back at the company. It is not too uncommon for me to have this conversation with a customer:
Customer>> Yeah, hi. I bought this here six months ago, and when I finally opened it up the other day, it had gone bad. I don’t have the receipt any more, hell, I don’t even remember if this is the store where I got it from. So, can I get my money back?
And then, when the customer goes to one of the cashiers to return it, usually the cashier and I will have this conversation:
Cashier>> But Mark! We’re Extra Foods, and this is a Safeway store brand!
Me>> Yup. But were giving them their money back.
As the supervisor, I have to authorize the return, so I’m fully aware that it’s my ass on the line.
I don’t know why I should be so nice to the customers, when quite a few of them can be rather stupid. A few months ago, we got this new debit card system. Now people swipe their own cards. When people swipe their cards successfully, the debit machine display screen will say “Open,” followed in a few seconds by the customer’s purchase price. When it is swiped unsuccessfully, it’ll just say “Open,” and my printer on my cash register will start printing off the error message. This happens too frequently. Customer will swipe his/her card. It’ll say, “Open,” but it will have gone through unsuccessfully, and my printer will start printing. I reset everything and ask the customer to try again. Customer will swipe his/her card. This time, it goes through successfully, but it when the display says “Open,” the customer will go apeslag. They’ll start screaming, “IT DIDN’T WORK AGAIN! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR MACHINES? MY CARD WORKS EVERYWHERE ELSE BUT HERE!” Or, even better, they’ll start maniacally rubbing their cards back and forth through the card reader, as if trying to bring the debit machine to some kind of orgasm. Then, when they calm down, I just calmly point to the debit machine and say, “It went through.” The customer will just generally say, “Oh.”
What I like are these customers that think they’ve got this new system figured out. As soon as they swipe their cards, they’ll start hammering in their pin number like it was some kind of Pavlovian response. When their card doesn’t go through, they’ll just stare at me in disbelief and go, “But I put in my pin number.”
And that’s not all. I’m also really starting to hate my co-workers, and it’s going beyond the vapid teenagers. For example, there’s our photo lab manager, and she’s taken to making life hell for all of us front end supervisors. She just sits behind her photo counter, watching us all, and thinking she runs the store. I started hating her a few months back, thanks to this one incident where she thought I was wrong, but turned out I was right. I just recently had my second big incident with her. A person came to my till today asking to rent our carpet cleaner. I said that I’m sorry, but the carpet cleaner was out of order, and we couldn’t rent it out. At this point, the customer just about burst into tears. Apparently, she had been trying to rent the carpet cleaner for the past few weeks, but was always told that it was out of order. Now, today, she called ahead for the steam cleaner, and was told that it was in and ready to rent. She wanted to talk to the manager, so I went and got my boss. After hearing her story, my boss and I set out to find out who she talked to on the phone. Surprise! It was the photo lab manger. My boss asked her what the hell she was doing, telling people it was good to rent out again, to which the photo lab manager replied that she looked up, saw it was in, and how was she to know that it was out of order? Losing my temper somewhat, I blurted out, “It’s got a huge ‘Out of Order’ sign hanging on it! How did you miss that?” She grumbled about having not seen a sign that morning. I gave up and went back to trying to keep the customer calm.
Sadly, some of this pent-up aggression gets vented out on my staff. The other night, it was really slow. I was back in my office, getting a jump on the closing paperwork, when there was a knock at the door. It was one of the newer cashiers; an overly-ambitious grandmotherly workaholic. She just looked at me and said, “Boy, is it slow out there.”
I looked on my security camera to double-check her claim. “Yes, it is,” I replied.
She continued. “Yup, it’s really, really slow.”
Again I said, “Yes it is.”
“I’m off in half-an-hour,” she pointed out. I was aware of that, and I told her so. “Yup,” she said. “It’s really, really slow and I’m off in half-an-hour.”
We stood there in silence for a while, until she caved. With an annoyed sigh, she finally asked what she had been hinting at. “Why don’t you send me home early if it’s so slow?” I just said that we should give it a few more minutes and see what it’s like. I knew what she was hinting at. Truth was, I wanted her to stay, because the more cashiers we had out front, the more I could get done in the office, and the earlier I could get home.
Still, though, as much as I hate my job, I do get curious about some aspects of it. As I’m sure most of you know, the occupation of grocery store cashier is one that’s female-dominated. Out of the twenty or so cashiers at Extra Foods, I’m one of three men. Out of the four supervisors (including my boss), I’m the only male supervisor. So, I often wonder, how many other men are out there, doing my job. The other day, the Regional Front End Manager was out visiting. This isn’t the Regional Manager I got mad at, but a more friendly Regional Manager, and my boss’s boss. So, I decided to ask her how many other men are out there. When I got her to hear me out, I began to ask my question. I began with, “Well, as you know, my occupation is pretty much female-dominated….”
At this point, the Regional Front End Manager cut me off. She got dead serious, and said in hushed tones, “You’re not being sexually harassed, are you?”
I did a double take. “WHAT?” I exclaimed. “No no no!” I then asked my question proper, and learned that, yes, there are lots of other male supervisors out there, and that quite a few have even advanced to become store managers and such. With my curiosity satisfied, I turned to leave, and the Regional Front End Manager again asked, “But seriously, you’re not being sexually harassed, are you?” Again, I said no.
And there’s a little denouement to this tale. The other day, my boss passed along a message from the Regional Front End Manager. I must have done something to impress her when I asked her my question. Turns out that a new Front End Manager is needed in Lac La Biche, and the Regional Front End Manager thought that I’d be good for it. So, my boss was asked to ask me if I’d be interested.
That’s the scariest thought of all. As much as I hate my job, I must be doing something that the bosses like.